Wow, so I started thinking about one of my favorite saints, St. John Vianney, the Cure de Ars. He knew suffering–not only did he undergo a lot of skepticism, doubt and criticism because he was not the most astute, but he also endured real, physical attacks by the devil and then added to this suffering with his own mortifcations of things like eating nothing but a boiled potato and spending 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. It was said he had such a gift for saving people’s souls that the bishop wouldn’t let him travel so he could stay and tend to the souls.
But anyway, the point is I went to look up quotes from him about suffering and wouldn’t you know, I discovered he had a whole catechism on suffering, so much more beautifully written then I could ever write or summarize.
Here’s a snippet:
Whether we will or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, and others like the bad thief. They both suffered equally. But one knew how to make his sufferings meritorious, he accepted them in the spirit of reparation, and turning towards Jesus crucified, he received from His mouth these beautiful words: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. ” The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered imprecations and blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair. There are two ways of suffering — to suffer with love, and to suffer without love. The saints suffered everything with joy, patience, and perseverance, because they loved. As for us, we suffer with anger, vexation, and weariness, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses, we should wish for them, we should take pleasure in them. . . . We should be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. Of what do we complain? Alas! the poor infidels, who have not the happiness of knowing God and His infinite loveliness, have the same crosses that we have; but they have not the same consolations. You say it is hard? No, it is easy, it is consoling, it is sweet; it is happiness. Only we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love.
On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for, whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “
Emphasis is mine.
To read the rest, click here: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/stj18020.htm.
Later in his writing, he says, “In order to get to Heaven, we must suffer.”
And so once again, the saints humble us. yes, we run and fight our suffering just like he talks about. And what he says is if we would just stop fearing it, we could learn to love it. We could use it. We could embrace it!
I have not loved my crosses. I have feared them. What a reminder that I have a long way to go on this faith journey . . . and its my suffering that’s going to get me there!